How Can Bricks-and-Mortar Industries Compete With Online Rivals?
The high street and industrial parks in any major town or city are very different places to what they were just ten years ago. The Internet and online retailers have opened up a huge can of worms, and many bricks and mortar businesses are still struggling to adapt.
The likes of Amazon and eBay have already seen off plenty of major retailers, and it seems like every year, more businesses are closing, and the high street is becoming a bleak and depressing place.
So, apparently, the landscape is changing. And that means that anyone with a bricks and mortar presence needs to answer one crucial question: how can you compete with your online rivals? Well, before you close up your shop, bank, factory, or warehouse, read on. I’ve put together some marketing tips for a few of the major types of physical businesses that should give you a fighting chance of surviving – and thriving.
Online Rivals: Retail
Retailers have been the most prominent victims of the growth in online ecommerce businesses. And it’s easy to see why. In simple terms, online retailers are able to sell products far cheaper than their physical rivals, due to lower operating costs, and a better ability to be flexible. That said, there are a few things high street shops can do to turn things around – without necessarily dropping their prices to dangerously low levels.
The simple solution is to start marketing your business as multi-channel – if you can’t beat them, join them, as they say. Set up a website and sales channel and compete online as well as on the high street. When you look at any successful bricks and mortar store in any town and city, all of them, almost without fail, will have a web presence, too.
There are plenty of benefits of doing so, particularly if you focus on local SEO. For example, you could take an order on your website and deliver it by the end of the day if you have the right logistics in place – which gives you an instant advantage over an online retailer who can’t deliver until next day.
You should also focus on providing an experience for your customers, which they simply can’t get online. In-store events, first-class, personable customer service, flash discounts and deals – there’s a lot you can do with a bit of imagination. It’s important to remember that although the Internet will always outstrip a physical store for convenience if you can offer something truly unique, you will be able to compete on many other levels.
Online Rivals: Estate agents
Let’s be honest: estate agents aren’t the most popular presence on the nation’s high streets. And few would be sad to see the back of them – which could happen in the not too distant future if many of the major estate agencies don’t pull their fingers out.
There are currently massive levels of investment going straight into exciting new estate agency tech startups, and it will only take one success story for the whole industry to change in a big way. So, how can this thoroughly traditional – some would say archaic – industry survive? Here are a few tips.
The first thing all estate agents need to do is to provide better online services. 90 percent of all property searches start online, and proper use of SEO – particular of the local variety – is the bare minimum requirement. Mobile is another key consideration, so make sure that your agency is providing a great experience for the many customers searching from a smartphone or tablet.
Branding is another significant opportunity. Estate agents should focus on improving their printed marketing materials to create something for their prospects and customers to experience, rather than just throw away. Consider upgrading your estate agent folders and flyers with modern, contemporary design. Look into technology such as videos, too – some estate agents are using drones to fly over their properties and offer sweeping visuals of the surrounding countryside. You can provide 360-degree virtual tours, too – whereas once this kind of tech was only used the bigger companies, even independents can afford it these days.
Online Rivals: Office-based services
It’s not just sellers of goods that are feeling the impact of the Internet – sellers of services are also suffering. If you are a marketing firm, for example, then you don’t just have lots of competition in your own town to deal with – or the surrounding area or county. The whole country is your competitor, now, and it’s not unusual for, say, a firm from the north-east offering services to a company in the southwest. It’s also an international issue these days. If you are a web developer, for example, then you might have rivals from a developing country who can offer similar services for a much lower price.
So, if you offer services, there’s only one thing for it – network heavily in your community. Put a large focus on offering regular meetings to clients, and ensure you are providing them with a first-class service that no one online can do from afar. Local SEO can help, too, of course – as could geolocation technology. Your advantage is that many businesses who use services prefer the opportunity for face-to-face meetings. Therefore, your primary aim should be to outrank the competition on a local basis and go to as many business or Chamber of Commerce events in your locale as possible.
Encourage word-of-mouth advertising, too. It’s still by far and away the best method of marketing a business, as people trust other consumers far more than they trust companies. Also, consider looking to find complementary businesses to your own. Perhaps you could offer a bigger, combined service, and possibly even share the odd client or two.
Online Rivals: Warehouses
On the face of things, you might think that warehouse business only have one option: submit to Amazon. The online retailer accounts for an astonishing quarter of all warehouse space in the entire country. That’s a truly remarkable feat and one that must have independent store bosses trembling in their boots.
The good news for retailers is that this statistic is also something of a good sign. Where Amazon succeeds, others can follow, and the huge boom in Internet shopping is driving the warehouse industry into its best years on record. And the amount of warehouse space is dwindling, as so much of it is in constant use – meaning you are sitting on some prime real estate, too.
But how can your marketing help your warehouse compete against the giant that is Amazon? Well, don’t forget that all retailers are feeling the pressure from Amazon, and are doing their damnedest to fight back. You should be focusing on all their pain points, and putting together the perfect packages that appeal directly to the people you want to attract. While there is a retail boom, you still face a lot of stiff competition so it might be worth focusing on a niche, too. Whether it’s refrigerated or frozen goods, clothing or toys is up to you – but finding a niche where you have expertise is a great way of guaranteeing and attracting a better quality client.
Online Rivals: Entertainment venues
While the nighttime entertainment industry is still worth billions, there is a growing trend – especially amongst young people – for staying in rather than going out. And it’s easy to see why: again, it’s all thanks to the Internet. Go back twenty years ago and if you wanted entertainment, you relied on what the TV channels put into their schedules, or you went out and entertained yourself at a pub, nightclub, cinema or restaurant.
These days, however, all the entertainment you need is at your fingertips. On-demand movies and TV shows allow you to watch what you want when you want. The rise of the games console means you can interact with people all over the world from the safety and sanctity of your bedroom. You can use your smartphone to have video calls, and it’s much cheaper to buy a few beers from the supermarket and have a party at home than it is to spend a fiver a pop on a pint and risk the threat of running into violence. Even services like Boiler Room TV give stay-at-homers the opportunity of catching up with their favourite DJs and dance music without the need to go clubbing. In fact, things are such a concern for the nighttime industry that Millennials are said to be ‘the new old people.’
For venue owners, it means there is a huge struggle to attract people to gigs, shows, and events. But, of course, there are some smart marketing tactics to make sure your venue doesn’t join the ranks of the hundreds that have closed over the past few years alone. First of all, start by widening your market potential and grow a bigger community. Are there events you could put on in the daytime, as well as your nighttime shows? Kids clubs, for example, can be an excellent way to get people through the doors of any venue, as can holding business events. A little creative thinking will go a long way, too – perhaps you could team up with local artists and create something interactive?
As you can see, wherever there is a will, there is a way. Bricks and mortar businesses have a lot of competition from their online rivals, but that doesn’t mean the end of the world by any means. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.